The late '90s brought about one of the most innovative and interesting genres for console video gaming when the terms rhythm, music, and video games were melded together for the very first time. The immense popularity of PaRappa The Rappa opened up the floodgates to such games as Konami's BeMani series, the PaRappa sequel Umjammer Lammy, and, of course, Enix's own Bust A Move (known as "Bust A Groove" here in the States). There have been several mixed arguments over Bust A Move 2 Dance Tengoku Mix's music - some have said that it's just as good, if not better than the first, while others argue that it can't even come close to matching Avex Trex's original. I would be in the former group, because it's true BaM2 does have some great tunes.
This time produced by East West Japan, the songs seem to possess a much more lively and colorful nature, and there are a number of styles to be found. Most importantly, the album manages to maintain that well-balanced hybrid of both Japanese and American-style tunes and good vocals that made the first game so popular.
Styles range from standard hip-hop and J-pop to even disco, heavy metal, and big band. I have a lot of favorites on this CD, but "Got To Be Happy" is one of the best. An extremely catchy disco beat is accompanied by a cool xylophone and percussion line, with some fairly well-written English lyrics. Just like Kitty N's "Blue Knife" from the first game, there appears to be a main theme prevalent in the sequel, and the melody that plays in this song seems to be it. Shorty's upbeat and cheerful "Hizashi-no-oku-no Happy Heart" is also a favorite of mine, combining a hip-hop beat with highly melodious and light-hearted J-pop lyrics. (I only wish the sound effects, such as the jungle noises here, were kept in the soundtrack!) There are also some instrumental tracks, like the heavy metal "Zombie Hopper" and the techno-infused "Enka 1." Though not quite as good as "Fly 'N To Your Soul" from the first game, Robo Z's drum and bass "Acid Line" sounds really phat. The ending staff roll theme deserves special mention as well; I can't remember the last time I've heard a video game that had a full instrument set playing big-band music! The brass section plays a catchy, mambo-jitterbug piece while the words "Bust A Move!" are chanted in the background.
What I also find appealing in the music is that it seems to more closely follow the personalities of the characters within the game. For instance, who can resist the bad-ass lyrics found in Strike's "Here Comes Trouble" or Heat's self-proclaimed coolness in "The Heat Is On". The lyrics are rarely ever offensive, with the slight exception of Comet's somewhat provocative "Magic Tower". (But don't think that these "innocent" music games can't contain any explicit content, just listen to Beatmania Gotta Mix's "Yellows, Blacks, And Blues".)
Ultimately, I got this CD on the basis that there would be remixes, just like the first one. Some are notably different, with a few new measures of music and stanzas, such as in "Hizashi-no-oku-no Happy Heart" and "Hello Kitty N!" while others are simply expanded from the originals, such as "Zombie Hopper" and "Allegretto Break". The longer minutes of music are highly appreciated, making for extra listening time and a much more enjoyable musical experience.
I'm not really sure if I could recommend this soundtrack to everyone. Again, the initial reactions I've heard haven't been too hot. I myself didn't think the new music was up to par at first, but then I realized I shouldn't be comparing the two at all. Judging it alone, I found Bust A Move 2 Dance Tengoku Mix to be a very satisfying soundtrack. And, as I kept playing the game over and over (and over, and over, and over), the tunes stuck to my mind like insects on flypaper. There really is a lot to offer in this album, and the many different music styles are handled fairly well, which is why Bust A Move still remains one of my most fave music game series out there.